I grew up watching lots of television. I loved watching old shows about families like “Leave It To Beaver” where Ward and June Cleaver’s family sat down to meals together and talked about the daily issues. It seemed like all their problems were solved with a heartfelt discussion at the dinner table.

The dinner table, whether at home or at a restaurant, has been a place for important social interaction for centuries. Family comedies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s present a “Leave It to Beaver” and even a “Brady Brunch” mentality about enjoying dinner together without interruptions. However, as technology permeates more of our society, I’ve noticed my teens spend their time at the table buried in their smartphones instead of engaging in conversation with their mother and me. Instead of trying to guilt them into being more sociable at the table, we help our teens understand the benefits of using the dinner table as the social vehicle it was meant to be.

Let Conversation Take Hold

I figure if my kids can learn constructive dinner table habits now, these skills will carry over into their social and wok settings as they get older. They appreciate being included in the conversation when they realize they have something to either contribute or learn.

When I first placed my smartphone on the dinner table at the start dinner, it peeked my son’s curiosity – it caught his attention. As I stopped checking my cell phone mid-conversation, so did my son. Eventually, we could get into deeper conversations that actually led somewhere instead of ending the chatter at small talk.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I’ve attempted to strike a deal with my teenagers in an attempt to get them to see the bigger picture. Similar to the way I’ve agreed to take my kids on a vacation during the summer if they do well in school that year, I’ve agreed to upgrade their phones when we renew our cell contracts if they maintain a certain standard of usage in our home and at school. The requirements are as follows:

Phones must remain out of site during meals. Phones must remain put away during classes. They must monitor their own data usage and not go over the limit They must act appropriately when communicating with their friends or using social media – no sexting, bullying, or giving away private information online

For meal times, we’ve agreed to turn off our phones. We all place our devices in a basket on the counter and once our meals are eaten and we’ve cleaned up our place at the table, we can pick up our phones again.

Finishing a Sentence

Little points of etiquette, when followed properly, can turn into positive mealtime habits. Encourage your teen to finish a sentence before answering their smartphone. He or she might learn to enjoy conversation at the dinner table instead of constantly checking their phones.

Teens present unique challenges as they transition to becoming adults, desperately wanting their own independence and constant contact with their social groups. However, having your nose stuck to a smartphone at the dinner table with family or friends doesn’t teach independence — it teaches the opposite. We work hard in our home to teach our kids the social benefits of dinner table conversation and maintain open communication via that sacred, unplugged time at home around the dinner table.